Updated July 2014
CANNOCKAndy Ball drums
"I think it was the first time we'd ever had the audience screaming for us. After packing our gear up, my dad had to try and get the van close to the hall because there was a load of lasses laying in wait for us. From memory, I think that the old man got most of the gear into the van himself and we just had to make a break for it!" - Reg Marshall, lead guitarist of Zero Five.
Formed early in 1964 by remaining members of a Cannock-based rock 'n' roll band called 'The Cossacks', the five-piece lineup of 'Zero Five' went on to play most of the major venues in Birmingham and the surrounding area. As can be imagined, this was an exciting time for five teenagers to be playing in a group together with no shortage of venues to play and many other young bands like The Beatles, The Searchers, and The Rolling Stones starting to dominate the record charts.
The original line-up of Zero Five comprised drummer Andy Ball, guitarists Graham Dodd and Dave Fellows, bass guitarist Colin Noble, and lead vocalist and front-man Dave Griffith. The band was certainly very busy from the start, playing six nights a week, often with one or two double-bookings in the same evening. Venue's such as The Adelphi, Old Hill Plaza, Handsworth Plaza, King's Heath Ritz, and many more became regular bookings for the Zero Five. As was the case with almost all bands starting out in those days, the ability to accurately copy and perform the latest hit records was a big factor in getting the best paying gigs. The tedium of performing as 'human jukeboxes' was relieved occasionally as Bill Shaw who was the van driver/roadie for Zero Five remembers:
"One of the standards covered by most groups was 'I'm Into Something Good' by Herman's Hermits. Singing these songs night after night made for some interesting alternative lyrics, none more so than in the chorus when the lead vocalist would sometimes sing "Something tells me she's in the pudding club" with two or three band members joining in at that point. One night at Kings Heath Ritz, everyone stepped back from the microphones so only Colin (bass) sang out "Something tells me she's in the pudding club" - poor Colin's face was scarlet as it brought the house down!"
As was the case with many bands, the ever-increasing number of bookings were too much of a commitment for some of the group members. Graham Dodd and Dave Griffin left within a year and were replaced by guitarist Reg Marshall and lead vocalist Tom Stanier respectively. The increasing distances travelled between gigs was also a source of adventure as recalled by roadie Bill Shaw:
"One of the things that often happened was you'd be playing the Ma Regan circuit and someone wanting a group for the evening would telephone the office who would call a particular group and send them off to anywhere in the Black Country or Birmingham. One particular evening we were at Old Hill Plaza with amongst others, 'Dave Lacey and The Corvettes' from Stourbridge. The 'star' group that evening was 'Carter, Lewis & The Southerners' who were brilliant even then (as they were later in The Ivy League), but at about 9:00 pm our singer Tom was called to the telephone. He came back to say there was a party at a pub called the Dog & Partridge and they wanted a group. We travelled god knows how many miles, but at about 11:30 we found the pub and sure enough it had a party in full swing. The only problem was I don't think there was anyone there under 70 and they certainly hadn't ordered a pop group!"
"At this stage I don't know why we didn't give up and go home but we continued to drive around the Severn Valley in the dark. At around dawn someone remembered a place that did bacon butties by the river at Bewdley. Don't ask me why it would be open at dawn but it could have been for the early morning fishermen I suppose. We found it and stood around by the river bank eating our lovely bacon butties when Tom says "It's raining!" The 'rain' was our drummer Andy - twenty feet up a tree relieving himself. Tom's comment even in these times is unprintable."
Playing support for some of the 'big name' acts of the time became a major source of gigs for the Zero Five. They supported such artists as 'Manfred Mann' and 'Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders' at Wolverhampton Civic Hall, 'Billy J Kramer and The Dakotas' at The Co-op Hall in Nuneaton, 'Tony Rivers and The Castaways', plus many more. Bass guitarist Colin Noble has vivid memories of one particular gig as follows:
"It was around Christmas/new year in the early sixties. The band was booked to play at the Adelphi in West Bromwich, a venue that had at least three or four groups per night, and quite often a featured 'guest star'. We were the second act and as we finished our set, the visiting star's support band asked if they could use our amplification to save time. We agreed, although this was not the norm, and if asked, it usually meant the band had sub-standard gear. As the support band went on, the 'star' joined us in the dressing room. At that time, he had passed his peak in popularity, he was considerably older (in our eyes) than us teenagers, and appeared to be a bit tipsy."
"I noticed there was an unpleasant odour from him in the close confines of the dressing room. Although the guy was quite friendly, we made our excuses and left in search of the bar, and girls! Standing in the bar, we heard his name announced to an indifferent crowd, with the support band strike up the intro to the first song. The effect was almost immediate. Like an old Hollywood movie, the star, starting from an indifferent welcome, had by halfway through the first verse, the audience in the palm of his hand."
"As a young teenager, it was a seminal moment in my life. I suddenly saw the real meaning of a "Star". The charisma of the man was incredible as he took the simple rock 'n' roll songs we had been playing and gave them life. I found out many years later, the odour in the dressing room was caused by the deteriorating condition of the man's leg, injured some years before in a motor cycle accident, and that he performed mostly in great pain. I still count the night as one of the greatest musical experiences of my life, and regret to this day I did not spend more time talking to the man I now recognise as probably the greatest rock 'n' roller of all - Gene Vincent."
The Zero Five recorded a number of songs, including some original compositions, that were pressed onto a demo-disc and copies made. One of these discs was passed along to Adrian Rudge, an EMI agent who had recently moved to live in Lichfield Staffordshire. A meeting was set up and after listening to the demo, Adrian was impressed - mainly with a group composition titled 'True Love Never Runs Smooth' This led him to go and see the band at Andy the drummer's house in Lichfield where they always rehearsed.
Although Adrian Rudge seemed to like the Zero Five, they didn't hear back from him and not long after, bass guitarist Colin Noble decided to leave the band. David Jones who worked in a Wolverhamptom music shop was recruited as Colin's replacement. This left Andy Ball and Dave Fellows as the only remaining original members. Adrian Rudge eventually contacted the band and took over as manager, giving the group a boost by raising the band's profile by advertising etc. and finally securing a record test at St. Johns Wood's famous Abbey Road Studios in London.
Zero Five recorded several tracks at Abbey Road in the legendary 'Studio 2' as used by the Beatles. Lead vocalist Tom Stanier was told by the studio engineer to "...look after that microphone son - it's the one John Lennon uses". The two Zero Five tracks chosen by EMI to be released on a single were the A-side 'Dusty' originally written by three of the 'Four Seasons' as recorded by 'The Rag Dolls', and 'Just Like A Girl' for the B-side (originally called 'Just Like A Boy', but had the lyrics changed as did Dusty, to be more suited to the group).
The band was due to return to Abbey Road and do a final recording of these two tracks but EMI decided the two test recordings were good enough to release on the single as they were very satisfied with the way the band had re-arranged them. Zero Five also signed a contract to record two more singles on the condition that a minimum number of records were sold. Dusty/Just Like A Girl was released on the Columbia Records label on November 5th 1965, and although a great recording, it was unable to set the UK charts on fire the same way as Guy Fawkes would light up the skies on bonfire night that year. Due to contractual obligations with EMI, Adrian Rudge was unfortunately unable to continue as the group's manager, which left Tim Marshall (Reg's dad) to carry on as manager.
On the up-side, just having a record out and be billed as 'recording artistes' certainly boosted the Zero Five's popularity to new levels as they discovered when playing one night in Liverpool as recalled by vocalist Reg Marshall (see top of this page). "I think it was the first time we'd ever had the audience screaming for us. We seemed to do all right in Liverpool. Happy days!!" said Reg.
Following in the footsteps of The Beatles and many others, Zero Five went over to Germany where they played Hamburg's Kaisersaal night club with further shows in Kiel and Schleswig Holstein up near the Danish border. The band also toured Scotland playing Carlisle, Hawick, Kelso, Frazerburgh, and a few other places they felt they shouldn't have. However, by the mid 1960's, change was in the air as far as pop music was concerned. Although still busy with bookings, the Zero Five would have no further record releases. By 1967 some band members decided it was time to move on resulting in the line-up going their separate ways and thus the end of the road for Zero Five.
Forty five years later, with the Zero Five now a distant memory, you may wonder what they are doing now? These days, lead vocalist Tom Stanier fronts 'Second Thoughts' - a sixties tribute band from Cannock - and also sings with 'Chrissy and The Shambles' (Chrissy being Tom's youngest daughter). Original Zero Five bass guitarist Colin Noble also plays bass with Chrissy and The Shambles. Andy Ball still plays drums as he has done for years in numerous West Midlands bands. Dave Fellows and Reg Marshall have both long since retired from playing music. Latest news is Dave "Boot" Jones and Andy Ball are performing together locally in a band called 'The Beatroutes'.
BrumBeat would like to thank Reg Marshall, Colin Noble, Bill Shaw, and Suzie for their assistance in writing this story of The Zero Five.
Copyright © John R Woodhouse 2012
The Zero Five 1960s Record Releases